This year is the first year our members can officially opt out of our union. So often, I am asked “what is the HVEA doing for me” and “with right to work, why should I continue paying dues and remain in the EA”?
My simple answer is this – right to work means the right to work for less. The ultimate goal of this legislation is to deplete unions of dues money by way of workers opting out of their union, thus paying nothing for the support they get from their union. A union is as strong as their members. The less members there are the less power the union has to fight for wages, benefits and working conditions. Those who opt out put the weight of collective bargaining on their colleagues.
The laws enacted since 2010 by our Michigan lawmakers were not aimed at improving the wages of teachers or improving the welfare of our students. What makes you think, then, that right to work is a good thing for you as a public educator? It might seem like a great thing that you no longer have to foot the annual union dues bill, but again, the ultimate goal of these laws is to destroy your ability to earn a living wage as a teacher.
Don’t be fooled, we are under attack. Senate bills 544-549 are the latest bills which are aimed at depleting the school aid fund, opening the door to divert public education funding to the private sector. Not to mention the gun reform bills that would allow concealed weapons in schools and special gun permits for young adults aged 18-21. We need to stand together to fight off these attacks.
Your bargaining team worked for six months to improve the contract. It was voted down because you had the confidence that your UNION could get you something better, which they did. If collective bargaining goes away, so does your contract. At the end of the day, you will only have the opportunity to “meet and confer” with your contractual demands, and you will end up with few (if any) of your demands met.
Some folks complain about things such as the Hard Cap health insurance plan – which your union, together with your colleagues – were able to hold off for a year and a half. They complain that HVS did this to us or that our union should have fought harder to keep the 80/20, instead of reflecting upon the fact that it was lawmakers who passed legislation moving the burden of higher health care costs on to you – the employee. This is how that worked out – your legislators in Lansing pay less per pupil to school districts, then they passed the Hard Cap law to save districts money so they could give them less operating dollars. The end result - increased health care costs that are now passed on to the employees – you. After all, Michigan has the dubious claim of being the home of Betsy DeVos.
Back to my original argument that right to work means right to work for less. That is the ultimate goal of the legislators that represent us – plain and simple. Now is the time for us to stand together. A union is as strong as the people that are in it.